By Fernando Garcés.
A few days ago we were deeply honored with a very special visit: the Ballart Family, a prominent name in the history of the Torre Bellesguard by Antoni Gaudí.
When Gaudí first visited the ruins of King Martin’s Castle, the entire Collserola Mountain range was an immense clearing. In fact, the area where Park Güell was built received the name of “Muntanya Pelada” (“Peeled Mountain”). Photos from this era show a very barren landscape, with very few trees and shrubs. The person responsible for replanting Bellesguard was Pere Ballart i Ventura, a passionate gardener. We know of his hard work thanks to a descendant of the first owners of the Torre Bellesguard: Josep Maria Figueras i Bas, who wrote a book entitled The Figueras family. The gentlemen of Bellesguard.
Speaking of the garden, the author explains that due to her love for jam and fruit preserves, Maria Sagués -the matriarch of the Figueras Family- had Pere Ballart i Ventura and the other caretakers cultivate fruit trees “for the taste of the lady”. In addition to fruit trees, the garden welcomed “the most valued species of that time: chestnut trees of Indies, willows, oleander, laurel, lime trees and palm trees”. It was Pere Ballart, however, who planted this last species, “by order of Gaudí himself and in the right place and distance from the house. The architect felt a special predilection for this species, and he had already foreseen that a hundred years after the completion of the work would have reached a sufficient height and that they would not shade the house or deprive the panorama of the balconies and windows of the farm”. Unfortunately, palm trees had to be pruned this year due to the plague of the red mullet (to learn more about the garden of Bellesguard, go to the following link: https://bellesguardgaudi.com/en/blog/the-garden-of-bellesguard/
Over the years, the Ballart Family has collected a handful of first hand anecdotes. First of all, because Gaudí personally directed the work, so the gardener and the architect worked closely for years. Secondly, because the Ballart continued to reside in Bellesguard long after the Figueras sold the farm and left. They did so until after the Civil War in the caretakers’ house, also built in the form of a castle by Domenech Sugrañes, Gaudí’s main collaborator, in 1916.
Consequently, the true guide of the visit was not us but Jordi Ballart Ros, the descendant of this Family today. He is a kind person, with a white mustache and a straw hat. How many curious anecdotes he told us! An episode of the Civil War, for example. At that time some nuns were living caring for an orphanage. One day, suddenly a group of soldiers swung in front of the house. Jordi’s father invited them to enter and search around, but advised them that they wouldn’t find any nuns inside. The soldiers believed him and the nuns were saved.
In summary, as we mentioned in the beginning, we are deeply honored to have received this visit of the Ballart Family. We hope to be able to sit with and further interview them over a good coffee and hear what other anecdotes, stories and everyday adventures of a Family whose last name is always linked to the Torre Bellesguard by Antoni Gaudí.